What’s better than a normal road trip? An Ireland road trip. Ireland is known as one of the most beautiful countries that hasn’t undergone seismic environmental damage, and for that, there’s a long list of breathtakingly beautiful views that a 4K photograph can’t even do justice to. If you haven’t travelled there yet, then consider this your road trip itinerary. Nothing but you, some instrumental traditional Celtic music on the radio, and peace of mind.
The Yeats’ Driving Tour
Apart from the breathtaking mountain view you’ll get from your car, there’s also cattle and fresh open fields for you to view at all times. It’s a rather wide open view with long stretches of roads, so even if you get caught up in the sights, you’ll still be on the straight and narrow path to get to your destination.
Take a trip to the Sligo Tourism Office, where you can inspect a ton of excellent information about the area and about Ireland in general. You’ll also get some great guidance on where to drive to next.
Yeats country is gorgeous, but you can’t really enjoy all of its splendor until you hit the peak at Queen Maeve’s Cairn. It’s nearly a thousand feet in the air, and it overlooks much of the area. You’ll keep close to the tomb of Maeve, Queen of Connacht, who has a rich history. You surprisingly won’t find many natives that know about it, because it’s so ingrained in their culture that it’s not vastly interesting to them.
Right off the south east coast of Ireland, you’ll get some of the best views into the open water available. It’s calm here, especially when you drive near the coves, or park and walk up onto the grassy plains to just breathe in the view.
Ireland is known for its slightly muggy feeling and the clouds that loom overhead. For some reason, when you stand here on the coast and look at the craggy rocks jutting up out of the water, the clouds paint the perfect picture and give the right amount of light to truly enjoy everything to its fullest extent.
Some of the roads here are winding, so do be careful when you’re behind the wheel. Take a peek into Annestown, and walk through the trails just off the roads of Dunhill, Fenor, and Bunmahon to get a bit closer to nature while still being close to your car. Nearly every road here gives you a glorious view of the ocean.
Something that you have to drive to is the Mining Heritage Exhibition—it doesn’t sound that interesting at first, but you learn so much about Ireland’s geographical makeup. You’ll be able to spot a ton of different geographical differences in the land and where different mineral deposits are in exposed rocks, which will enrich your trip (at least, it did mine).
Shores of Galway
Galway itself is a moderately sized city with plenty to do, from the Eye Cinema, The G Hotel & Spa, the Aran Island Ferries, and Eyre Square—that’s maybe 1% of all the things you can do—all the way to the bar scene at night near The Claddagh.
But you’re here for a road trip, right? That means you need to see plenty of the roads, mostly being the shores of Galway and the surrounding areas. Take the N^ south through Clarinbridge to Kinvarra, and through the little trails of the Flaggy Shore, travel further south through Kilmoon and Inagh, and take a left at the end of Ennis to get back on the straight and narrow M18 to get to Galway and stay in your hotel.
You get a mix of the shoreline, with an even scoop of the calming countryside. One of my favorite spots on this trip is the view in Shanaglish, then watching the ocean greet me as I come down and take the crossroads to Kilcolgan and back through Clarinbridge.
If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, you can go to Mutton Island through The Claddagh in Galway on a one-way-in road, and just stare out at the ocean as the sun goes down. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of spot, but keep in mind that it’s prone to tourists during busy seasons, so you might have to share the view.
The Ring of Kerry
Driving around Ireland is a blast, but it can’t all be achieved in a single trip. If you’re looking to get a good chunk of the roads covered without having an overly complicated path, the Ring of Kerry is going to be your best bet. You’ll go along the south east coast on a peninsula that contains Sneem, Cahersiveen, and Glenbeigh.
Travel through Kenmare, then the Killarney National Park for a glorious view of the wildlife. Go through Killorglin and come on back to where you’ve started. It’s not an easy drive by any means—you’ll have to make a day out of this. As such, it gives you the perfect opportunity to enjoy a ton of local attractions and food.
Stop in at the Bricin Restaurant and Boxty House when you’re in Killarney, or my personal favorite, Cronins Restaurant. If this is a few days into your Ireland itinerary, then you’re going to need some relaxation from all that road time. Stop in at the Killarney Plaza Hotel and Spa, then get back to exploring.
Sleep in at the Valhalla BnB, then continue on the coast to see a breathtaking view of the coastline. Before you leave, you owe it to yourself to check out the Staigue Stone Fort, or at least the Cahergall Stone Fort off of the Castlequin bridge in Cahersiveen.
One way in, and one way out—it’s basically the ultimate driving experience. Achill island has a ton to do, much more than I can describe in a single post.
Take it from me, you’re going to want to stay for a couple of days. Spend one night in the Achill Cliff House Hotel, then another in the Achill Lodge Guesthouse. If you want a glorious ocean view, there’s also the Achill’s Ocean Edge. They’re all great picks without burning a hole in your wallet.
You have so many waterside roads that you can drive on and just stare out into the ocean. You’ll be itching to hit the road at sunrise, and you’ll wonder where the entire day went when you watch the sun going down. It’s a beautiful sunset, so why not stay a while and get to see it again tomorrow?
Stay for a while and hit the Blackfield Surf School, rent a bicycle to enjoy some of the trails at a more leisurely pace, or take a load off at the Achill Island Golf Club as a tourist. There’s so much to do.
Before you leave, spend a night at the Amethyst Bar, grab some lunch from Kate’s Café, and a coffee from The Beehive Craft & Coffee Shop for the road. Get back to that one way in, one way out road that grants you a fantastic ocean view at any time of the day. You’re going to miss this place when you eventually have to go back home.
The Sally Gap
Just south of Dublin, the Sally Gap offers some of the best hilly driving spots in the entire country. You’ll be greeted with small ponds and lakes along the way while you take winding turns through Roundwood, Annamoe, and Glendalough.
I recommend stopping at the Wicklow Mountains National Park for a nice little carved-out piece of the untapped wilderness at your fingertips. It’s not only a glorious sight, but it’s something that you can enjoy after the long ride over. Get out, walk around for a bit, climb a hill and peer down to Curtlestown through the trees—there’s a sight on every side of the hills.
I know this is all about road trips, but that doesn’t mean you’re sleeping in your car—you can get a killer five-star hotel experience from the Powerscourt Hotel for around $200 per night (give or a take depending on the season). It’s close enough to everything you want to visit and drive to, but it offers a great break from the lush greenery with a luxurious experience.
Nearby in Riverside, you can see and appreciate an old Irish church even if you’re not a religious person. St. Patrick’s Church (how much more Irish can you get, right?) is historic and features an excellent small-town feel for your duration.
If it were up to me, I would end the day with a trip into Bray to the Sea Life Bray Aquarium right on the water. There’s also the Bray golf club, and a short drive to the Star Leisure & Casino. It doesn’t feel like Vegas, but that’s the point—it’s a little bit of guilty fun before you hit the road again, and you can stay in smaller hotels on this strip for under $100 per night.
Boyne Valley Loop
Ideally, the best Ireland itinerary will have a blend of different views that aren’t strictly coastal. I love the view you get from the cliffs, but there’s a specific path that, if you travel, you can see nearly ten thousand years of history all in one fell swoop.
Drive through the town of Drogheda, visit the Kells High Crosses, and inspect all the information about the Battle of the Boyne—there’s so much more to see than just what I’ve listed here.
It’s a total of 120 miles of driving to complete the loop, meaning that without stopping, you can see the entire route in about two and a half hours if you aren’t speeding through everything. Take some time, enjoy the sights, and understand that the traffic can fluctuate. It’s not just tourists, but it’s locals as well. These roads run close to Dublin, so you can expect to run into plenty of traffic swells.
Beautiful. I can’t think of a more simplistic way to describe this gorgeous landscape apart from beautiful. It’s something that you have to feast your eyes on to fully understand. There’s multiple types of views you’ll see at the Burren, because it’s like being somewhere between earth and the moon all at once.
There’s just endless fields of split gray rocks with dark green grass sprinkling up between them, like a meteor crashed to earth a billion years ago and has been eroding while hosting life. You’ll be able to enrich your historical knowledge of Ireland as well, because there’s believed to be twenty-two people buried throughout the Burren since it was once a memorial place of symbolism.
The drive itself? It’s not that long, but it’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen before. Nearby, you can find plenty of shops and lodging, but if you want to spend the day outside of your car, then you can go through the trails at the Burren National Park, and even visit the Burren Perfumery if you fancy.
The Dingle Peninsula
Now here’s an area you can make a day out of. When you can get around the entire thing, you’ll be able to take the N86 and go from Camp to Doonshean, and then split off into the many roads that carve through neighboring areas. Spots like Ventry, Dunquin, Geohanagh and Brandon, just to name a few.
Geographically, it’s not all too big, but it has plenty of roads and edges to the coarse shoreline that it keeps surprises at every corner. Even if you think you can see what something looks like from your car, chances are that if you get out and take a closer look, it’s going to puzzle you a bit. The shores here come up in arches and move down in slopes, so you could be ten feet above the water, or you could be twenty-five feet up—perspective is everything on the Dingle Peninsula.
When you actually drive into Dingle, the Coastguard Restaurant at the Dingle Skellig Hotel is a one-stop-shop kind of experience. Perched on its own little nub of land, it features a glorious view down the western coast, while having all the amenities available that you’re going to need. While this is one of the more travelled paths and areas in Ireland, it’s by no means crowded. The folks at the Dingle Skellig Hotel know how to treat travelers who are experiencing Ireland for the first time.
The Sky Road
If you want to travel Ireland by car, then you can’t miss this fantastic peninsula in the same region as Errislannon. It’s not the longest drive, but somewhere in the ballpark of 15-20 miles. This gives you a good amount of time to take two or three tips around after you cut off of N59.
You’ll see fantastic shreds of the coast in different lights, and I highly recommend looking out to the water from the cliffside of the peninsula’s cap—it’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else. Take a breather, then hop back in your car and head to Mitchell’s restaurant in the nearby area of Clifden.
From there, after you’ve refueled with lunch, you can go to the Whitethorn Gallery, the Rifle Sebastian Sculpture, and the Station House Museum to get a rich bit of small-time history in one of Ireland’s more exclusive areas.
If you’re looking for cheap loading in the area, The Stones Boutique Hostel is a rather fetching little area that doesn’t cost much. Stay, get a bite at Mary Alice Dream Cakes nearby, and then take one more lap around the peninsula before you head onto the eleventh spot on our list.
Wild Atlantic Way
There’s not much to this, which is exactly why everyone loves it—it’s slightly secluded, and it’s not crawling with a ton of tourist traps. You’re going to feel welcomed, not like people are just hunting you down for your wallet. The roads have been improved in recent years, making it a much smoother and more enjoyable ride the whole way through.
Start driving from the south up to the north, if the option is available for you. This puts you right next to the ocean the entire time, so you can get a view of the glimmering coast that’s been untouched by man (y’know, apart from the road you’ll be on). If you’re taking this road trip with somebody else, then you’ll be in perfect range for them to take some stunning photographs right from their window.
If you have the opportunity, I recommend pulling over to the side of the road and actually breathing in the fresh air. Kill the engine, just look out at the coast with no music playing and no talking. Take a break to truly appreciate the silence of nature and get a little bit closer to yourself.
Causeway Coastal Route
Also known as the coastal highway, it delivers a glorious view an pathway up to the remaining stones of Dunluce Castle. It’s old—possibly one of the oldest things you’re going to see in Ireland that’s still functional. To put it in perspective, it was abandoned back in 1641 because a section of the kitchen eroded and collapsed into the ocean below the cliffs.
According to Ireland.com, it’s also the reason behind The Chronicles of Narnia, created by C.S. Lewis. It inspired him, according to some accounts. That’s pretty cool, but what’s more fantastic is the way it will inspire you when you actually lay your eyes on it. It’s another instance of photography not being able to do it justice.
You’re also close to the city of Belfast, where you can stop in to the Ulster Museum to see some local history, or Belfast Castle to double up on that inspiration. While it’s a slightly less excellent view than the Dunluce Castle, it’s still another key part of Irish culture that you’re going to be able to experience firsthand.
Touring Ireland by car cannot be completed without going through the Glengesh Pass. Well, it can, but you’d be missing out on one of the most beautiful things on this planet. The road doesn’t carve through the land, it’s more like it gently rests on top of it, keeping the natural fields completely intact.
Peaks on your left, hilltops on your right, and nothing but the lush greenery ahead of you. There’s miles and miles to drive, just don’t go too fast. Take it slow and easy, and enjoy the fact that there’s almost nobody on these paths. Pull over, walk up the hill, and take a picture (with your car in the bottom as proof to your friends, of course). It’s breathtaking.
Then, pull into the Woodhill House, the coziest yet modern hotel near the Glengesh Pass, and just relax while the sun goes down. It’s lit up outside, so you might find that you’ll have to walk away a bit to get that star-filled sunset view. The glorious part of this side of Ireland is that there’s not much light pollution, so you can see the galaxy as it was meant to be seen.
Where Will Your Next Trip Take You?
If these spots aren’t on your Ireland itinerary, then what are you doing? As the most beautiful spots in this glorious country, you won’t be able to cover them all in one trip—guess it’s time to book a second flight later on down the line. Remember to set up a good car rental that’ll be ready when you land.